Meeting new people doesn’t always have to be in the interest of finding new friends or a romantic partner – it can also mean finding people to support you if you are going through a hard time. Whether you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, loneliness, bereavement, or any other issue, there are lots of support groups out there to help. Some provide online or telephone support, but many groups meet up in person – and being able to speak face-to-face with people who’ve had similar experiences to you can be very therapeutic.
If you want to see what type of support groups are available to you, have a look at these NHS recommended ones. Mental health charity, Mind, also provides guides to support, and has its own online community Side by Side, where you can connect with others who understand what you’re going through. You can listen, share, and be heard – all without judgement.
If you’re caring for an elderly or sick relative, or supporting a loved one with a mental health problem, you may want to consider joining a support group for carers. Carers UK offer both online support and in-person, local support – you can find groups near where you live here. Age UK also provides local support for carers looking after loved ones with dementia.
If you can’t find a support group in your community that meets your needs, you could always consider starting your own. Even if you don’t currently know anyone who’s gone or going through the same experiences as you, there’s nothing stopping you building your own community of support. This can be an incredibly rewarding thing to do, but when setting up your group, do bear in mind that you can’t help everyone – and the broader your support group, the harder it can be to help other members understand their similarities and connect in a meaningful way.
It can be helpful to seek out professional assistance before you start a support group. You may want to speak to social service workers, doctors, therapists, or members of the council, who might be able to offer help – whether it’s providing referrals to your group or helping you find a practical meeting venue. You’ll also need to think about any expenses (will you need to fundraise?), how you’ll let people know about your group, and what group guidelines you’ll want to set out. To find out more about starting up your own support group, have a read of this informative guide by UK charity Adfam.